Europe / Greece

Athens

The city with the most glorious history in the world, a city worshipped by gods and people, a magical city. The enchanting capital of Greece has always been a birthplace for civilization. It is the city where democracy was born and most of the wise men of ancient times.

Athens is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state. A centre for the arts, learning and philosophy, home of Plato's Academy and Aristotle's Lyceum, it is widely referred to as the cradle of Western civilization and the birthplace of democracy, largely due to the impact of its cultural and political achievements during the 5th and 4th centuries BC on the rest of the then known European continent. Today a cosmopolitan metropolis, modern Athens is central to economic, financial, industrial, political and cultural life in Greece. In 2008, Athens was ranked the world's 32nd richest city by purchasing power and the 25th most expensive in a UBS study.

The Greek capital has a population of 655,780 (796,442 back in 2004) within its administrative limits and a land area of 39 km2 (15 sq mi). The urban area of Athens (Greater Athens and Greater Piraeus) extends beyond the administrative municipal city limits, with a population of 3,074,160 (in 2011), over an area of 412 km2 (159 sq mi). According to Eurostat, the Athens Larger Urban Zone (LUZ) is the 7th most populous LUZ in the European Union (the 4th most populous capital city of the EU) with a population of 4,013,368 (in 2004). Athens is also the southernmost capital on the European mainland.

The heritage of the classical era is still evident in the city, represented by a number of ancient monuments and works of art, the most famous of all being the Parthenon, widely considered a key landmark of early Western civilization. The city also retains a vast variety of Roman and Byzantine monuments, as well as a smaller number of remaining Ottoman monuments projecting the city's long history across the centuries. Athens is home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Acropolis of Athens and the medieval Daphni Monastery. Landmarks of the modern era, dating back to the establishment of Athens as the capital of the independent Greek state in 1833, include the Hellenic Parliament (19th century) and the Athens Trilogy consisting of the National Library of Greece, the Athens University and the Academy of Athens. Athens was the host city of the first modern-day Olympic Games in 1896, and 108 years later it welcomed home the 2004 Summer Olympics. Athens is home to the National Archeological Museum, featuring the world's largest collection of ancient Greek antiquities, as well as the new Acropolis Museum.

Athens has a subtropical Mediterranean climate (Köppen Csa) and receives just enough annual precipitation to avoid Köppen's BSh (semi-arid climate) classification. The dominant feature of Athens climate is alternation between prolonged warm and dry summers and mild, wet winters. With an average of 414.1 millimetres (16.30 in) of yearly precipitation, rainfall occurs largely between the months of October and April. July and August are the driest months, where thunderstorms occur sparsely once or twice a month. Winters are cool and rainy, with a January average of 8.9 °C (48.0 °F); in Nea Filadelfeia and 10.3 °C (50.5 °F) in Hellinikon; Snowstorms are infrequent but can cause significant disruption when they occur. Snowfalls are more frequent in the northern suburbs of the city.

Mount Parnitha creates a rainshadow for the city, as a result of which precipitation is typically lower than in other parts of the Balkans; for a typical comparison, Tirana receives over three times more rainfall and Shkodra about five times as much. Daily average highs for July have been measured at 33.5 °C (92.3 °F) at Nea Filadelfeia weather station, but other parts of the city may be even warmer, in particular western parts partially due to industrialization or mainly due to various natural reasons (knowledge of which we have at least from the mid 19th century). Temperatures often surpass 38 °C (100 °F) during the city's notorious heatwaves.

The city of Athens is affected by the urban heat island effect in some areas which is caused by human activity, altering its temperatures compared to the surrounding rural areas, that has detrimental effects on energy usage, expenditure for cooling, and health. The urban heat island of the city has been found partially responsible also for alterations of the climatological temperature time-series of specific Athens meteorological stations due to its impact on the temperatures and the temperatures trends recorded by some meteorological stations. On the other hand specific meteorological stations such as the National Garden station and Thiseio meteorological station are less affected or do not experience the urban heat island

Athens holds the World Meteorological Organisation record for the highest temperature ever being recorded in Europe of 48.0 °C (118.4 °F) which was recorded in Elefsina and Tatoi suburbs of Athens on 10 July 1977.

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